The story of the famous manufacturer Pavel Kalpakchiev and his contribution to the city under the hills


Pavel Kalpakchiev was born in 1863 in Etropole in a family with eight children and from an early age he started on the path of apprenticeship and work to secure his livelihood. For years, he changed different activities until he started working in the inn of a wealthy landowner from the village of Sarantsi and fell in love with his daughter. The two got married, and with the help of her dowry, he decided to open his brickyard in the sprawling field in front of the Plovdiv railway station. The business wasn’t going well at all, however, because the people of Plovdiv at that time built their houses from adobe and didn’t need any bricks.

The young man did not despair, but made a second attempt, but this time he put things with the bricks not on a craft basis, but on an industrial basis. Coincidentally, a Law for the promotion of local industry had just been voted, stimulating entrepreneurship in every way. Together with his brother - Yordan, they created the new factory, which was located in the Kyuchuk Paris district, between today's Lazo Voivoda and Raicho Kirkov streets, on the site of the former Trakia cinema. They called it Ostromilla. Kalpakchiev closely monitored the innovations of the European market and imported tile presses and brick machines from Germany to ensure that the enterprise was well equipped.

With the establishment of his brick factory, he began an active social policy. He was aware that the technology of ceramic production requires heavy physical labor, work is done outdoors, and it is very hot near the kilns. To attract workers, he gave them BGN 0.50 higher wages. The most generous at that time was BGN 1.50, with Kalpakchiev it was BGN 2. In the yard of the factory, he built free dormitories, a bathroom, a workers' canteen, a kindergarten, a medical clinic with three beds and a doctor and a paramedic, all free. He also opened a grocery store where workers shopped with tokens at symbolic prices, and gave free bricks to the poorest of them to build their own homes, and an interest-free loan to buy land, without any written contract, only on an honest word.

There was a feast for the workers every Christmas, and every Easter, dozens of Easter breads were kneaded, thousands of eggs were painted and distributed to the employees and their families, along with gifts for the children. On August 2nd, the whole factory celebrated Saint Elijah to give them good weather and for the bricks and tiles to be baked well. Then Pavel Kalpakchiev himself and his sons cooked and served their workers, and the tables in the factory yard were not cleared away for days.

Due to the expansion and rise of the city, the enterprise developed wonderfully and Kalpakchiev bought his own locomotive and even donated the bricks with which the building of the new Plovdiv station was built. This happened in 1907, and the building was in the Baroque style by the project of the Italian architect Professor Mariano Pernigoni.

The industrialist also assisted in providing the materials for the construction of the Concrete Bridge over the railway line for the wagons to pass unhindered and not wait long for barriers.

From the beginning of the 20th century until his death, Pavel Kalpakchiev and his wife Maria donated almost half of the nearly three million BGN needed for the construction of a children's home at the Holy Trinity Church. The dining room of the home bore their names because they supported it with their own funds. In 1913, the industrialist built the city's first workers' hospital with an outpatient clinic where treatment was free. He also became one of the founders of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose goal was to ensure that there was no village without a livelihood. He also founded the Plovdiv Popular Bank and was its chairman until his death, without a salary.

The bricks produced in the Kalpakchiev factory are a trademark in construction in Plovdiv. Nearly 90 percent of the houses in the Old Town were built with them more than 100 years ago. Their beautiful relief inscription can still be seen in places today.

Pavel's heirs continued his business and even after his death in 1929 the factory was in a flourishing condition. After 1944, however, the large Kalpakchiev family was put on trial by the Communist authorities under the Law on the Illegally Enriched. All their property was confiscated in favor of the state and a fine of over BGN 11 million was imposed. The decision was appealed, but it only succeeded in saving the heritage house on May Street from nationalization. Today, one of Kalpakchiev's granddaughters lives in it, and the property has been declared a cultural monument. A plaque in memory of Maria and Pavel Kalpakchievi was placed on the facade years ago.

In 2009, heirs of the family founded a foundation named after the manufacturer Pavel Kalpakchiev. It was Maria and Rositsa Kalpakchievi’s idea, and Petar Kalpakchiev, Georgi Zlatarev and Kamen Zlatarev supported it. The foundation spreads and preserves the name of Pavel Kalpakchiev, maintains his burial place, which is also in Plovdiv, and is part of the interesting tour through the secrets of the Central Cemetery in Plovdiv, which will take place this Saturday.